Stories along the Way: Heading West

Massachusetts  October 20

After going around Boston, we look for a place to spend the night. I find Wells State Park near Stutebridge. But when we get into the park, it is closed to camping though nothing on their website indicated closure. Unwillingly to find someplace else to stay, we camp in the large parking lot after I leave a note on the door. We both have colds now but it is a quiet night marked by coughing fits. It’s raining, but we’re cozy and warm. I decide to stay in bed for a bit in my flannel PJ’s in the flannel sheets under the duvet. The staff does not show up for work this rainy Sunday morning so Jim retrieves my note, and makes me tea that feels so warm and soothing going down my throat. As we leave the park, staff passes us on our way out. Ohhhh how we miss Tim Horton’s this morning since I don’t feel like making breakfast.

Response to question on Wells State park website:

“Does the park have Internet?”

“ It’s a State Park. Put your cell phone down and get out and enjoy nature.”


Connecticut October 21

We drove into Connecticut. We didn’t stop at Mark Twain’s house that I wanted to see in Hartford. Then we missed Noah Webster’s house.  I’m not sure why Jim was unwilling to exit 6 lanes of city traffic to satisfy my whim……..The GPS calls out “there’s live traffic on the road”. What does that mean? We heed Finn Murphy’s advice in the audio book “The Long Haul” (recommend for road trips) that those that rely solely on GPS get lost 2-3 times more. Our Rand McNally Road guide of the US and Canada has several weather beaten pages. “Turn right at the stoplight,” Ms GPS says. We laugh, we’re on I84. “Recalulating,” she says. 

New York passes in a flash 

Pennsylvania October 22

We drive through the Poconos, Appalachian, and Blue Ridge mountains.


Pennsylvania is Jim’s home state, growing up in the Pittsburgh area. He grew up delivering newspapers in a wagon, running and playing in the woods behind their house, playing hockey and Boy Scouts. Pretty common for the times.

Driving through the countryside of Lancaster we admire the tidy farms and maneuver around the Amish buggies. They must have turn signals and a large marker on the back of the buggy, a  state mandated response to too many buggy/car encounters.


Downtown Lancaster is busy and we find one campground available. Unfortunately, it seems to have a large roller coaster and other amusements.

There is no one at  the camp office when we pull into the campground for the night. No place to leave money, only a few campers and a camp host. We park in a secluded site amongst the tall rustling trees dropping leaves and quickly fall sleep. This morning, the sun slips in among the tall trees and slides gently into the Sprinter. “Time to get up,” it seems to say. “I have a beautiful day waiting for you.”It is a fine, fall day.  We check out of the campground after enjoying the stream and the large farm across the field. Jim watches the milk truck pull in to load the day’s milk from the cows. 


Flight 93 National Monument

We pass near the memorial for Flt 93 that crashed on 9/11. It’s the  flight that passengers took over the cockpit from the hijackers knowing they would crash and die. We can’t go right to the memorial, but it makes the event so real and close. I was in an airplane flying between Alaska and Florida when the tragedy struck New York.


Gettysburg. Three days in July, 1863

What can you say ? “You’ve read about it, now you must see it.” We watched the videos about the Battle, stood in the incredible, heartbreaking cyclorama theatre with scenes of the battle surrounding us  painted by Phillippoteaux and then went to the museum with its many artifacts of life during those difficult times.


We drive along the peaceful road where the Confederate troops  set up their canons and established a staging area for an attack on the North. Canons stand there now scattered along the long road with monuments erected by southern states in honor of troops that died here. Further down the road we drive by memorials to Northern troops. There is so much to learn here on the actual site of the battle. In the museum we look at an exhibit showing how hard Lincoln worked to make the right decision about abolishing slavery. As the country moved West, southerners wanted slavery to expand, too. 


The country was in such turmoil then and I found myself looking for an answer to today’s turmoil. Civil War was the chosen solution then, hopefully not now.



We drive through Historic Gettysburg and have ice cream in an old building called “Two Sycamores”. President Lincoln walked by the house on his way to making his historic speech. Information plaques show where the residents hid when the fighting took place in the town.


 We camp at Caledonia State Park, again a beautiful night in the woods with few people in the campground. Driving around the next morning we came across a marker for an iron works furnace, built in 1837. There are a number of such furnaces in the area. This one was destroyed by Confederate troops in 1863 and rebuilt as a Memorial. Again, war affects many places not noticed.


It’s a good lesson not to just stop at a historic park like Gettysburg. The surrounding area is also affected by war though not really mentioned. People suffered but faded into history.

Near the iron furnace marker is a marker of a different type. At a time when few roads in the U.S. were paved, a group of people got together in 1912—Carl Fisher founder of the Indianapolis Speedway, Henry Joy of Packard Motors and several Detroit businessmen got together to promote a “Rock coast to coast Highway.” It was completed in 1935. (And we complain about potholes!) Joy suggested naming it for President Lincoln. He thought it a better memorial than the one being planned in Washington. So much history. So much to seek out in addition to the carefully laid out historic monuments and museum.

Fallingwater is our next stop. It is a Frank Lloyd Wright home built for the Kaufmans of Pittsburgh in the 1930’s . They owned a successful department store (now Macy’s). It is designed as their retreat place. Avid hikers and naturalists, the Kaufmans want to incorporate as much nature as possible. Fallingwater is built over a waterfall by up to 100 local craftsmen during Depression years. Wright was engaged to design both the structure and the furniture. When completed, it had a cost overrun of 500% necessitating a few changes like only one bedroom and bathroom in the guest house instead of three.

The house is currently furnished with most of the original furnishings and collected artifacts. The Kaufman’s only son entrusted it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963. No photography is allowed in the house, and the guide carefully watches her group. No children, pets, large backpacks or purses are allowed. They are three sculptures by Diego Rivera as well as many other precious artifacts.

Built into the rock wall, among falls and a tumbling river, the home incorporates large stone outcrops into the house including the area in front of the fireplace. Many engineers and architects suggested that the house could not be built the way Wright planned it—supported by a system of cantilevers.


While Wright worked with the client’s wishes, he could be stubborn. When Mr. Kaufman wanted a bigger desk, he refused as he designed an opening window at the edge of the desk. Finally, he wrote Wright, “The desk is too small to write a check to the architect.” He got a bigger desk with a unique cutout to open the window. Qf2KCCyETlSQdCDu2ATa%g





Stories along the Way: Heading West

2 thoughts on “Stories along the Way: Heading West

  1. Linda Hurley says:

    Hi Christine,

    I just got a chance to read your latest blog post, I love it! I’m delighted that you got to Gettysburg. It really is very moving. I want to see the Flight 93 memorial at some point, maybe our next long road trip.

    Thanks again for sharing your travels.

    Hugs, Linda


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